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Aluminum-Based Ford F-150 Hits Manufacturing Floor

It’s time to put all of the testing and speculation aside. Ford’s aluminum pride and joy, the 2015 F-150, has finally gone into full production, and the first vehicle off the assembly line got a rousing ovation at the Dearborn, Michigan facility. From the Detroit News:

Shortly before 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, Dearborn Truck plant manager Brad Huff and UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles drove the first 2015 F-150 pickup — painted cherry red — off the assembly line and into history.

Ford Motor Co.’s newest truck, made with an aluminum body and bed that saves up to 700 pounds, marks a significant milestone for the Dearborn automaker and is a potential game-changer for the industry. The launch completes years of research and development after Ford overhauled nearly every aspect of the building process from exterior painting to interior design.

The lightweight material is expected to increase gas mileage 5 percent to 20 percent, but is more costly to make and repair — a big gamble for Ford’s best-selling vehicle. The launch also marks a rebirth for the Dearborn Truck Plant, centerpiece of the venerable Rouge Center that was nearly shuttered before finding new life to build the truck. The plant underwent a multi-million dollar renovation this year.

“We’re here today to make history,” executive chairman Bill Ford said as hundreds of workers cheered. “The Rouge has always been at the heart of Ford to me and my family.”

Now that production is in full force, showrooms are expecting to get their inventory sometime within the next month. The early word in reviews and press has been positive, but the ultimate vote comes down to the consumer. With its increased gas mileage and signature durability, we’re guessing it will be a winner.

2015-06-18T15:33:03+00:00 November 12th, 2014|

Aluminum Part May Reveal Amelia Earhart’s Fate

It’s funny how solving one mystery often unlocks another. In this case, resolving one twenty-year mystery can be the key to another internationally known, decades-long mystery. At the center of it all? One piece of aluminum — more specifically, a piece of aluminum recovered in a remote island nearly two decades ago. From The International Group For Historic Aircraft Recovery:

Increasing confidence that a piece of aluminum aircraft debris found on a remote, uninhabited South Pacific atoll came from Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra has bolstered speculation that a sonar anomaly detected at a depth of 600 feet off the west end of the island is the lost aircraft.

In June 2015, TIGHAR will return to Nikumaroro to investigate the anomaly with Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) technology supported by Nai’a, the 120-foot Fiji-based vessel that has served five previous TIGHAR explorations. During the twenty-four day expedition, divers will search for other wreckage at shallower depths and an onshore search team will seek to identify objects detected in historical photographs that may be relics of an initial survival camp.

During Amelia Earhart’s stay in Miami at the beginning of her second world flight attempt, a custom-made, special window on her Lockheed Electra aircraft was removed and replaced with an aluminum patch. The patch was an expedient field modification. Its dimensions, proportions, and pattern of rivets were dictated by the hole to be covered and the structure of the aircraft. The patch was as unique to her particular aircraft as a fingerprint is to an individual. Research has now shown that a section of aircraft aluminum TIGHAR found on Nikumaroro in 1991 matches that fingerprint in many respects. For a detailed study of this important new development see The Window, The Patch, and The Artifact, Research Bulletin #73 on the TIGHAR website.

The strong possibility that Artifact 2-2-V-1 is the “Miami Patch” means that the many fractures, tears, dents and gouges evident on the metal may be important clues to the fate – and resting place – of the aircraft itself. Deciphering those clues will be the next phase in TIGHAR’s analysis of this complex and fascinating artifact.

To learn more about this potentially historic find, visit the official TIGHAR website for the complete press release.

2015-06-18T15:33:03+00:00 November 6th, 2014|

Jeep Wrangler Transitions to Aluminum

2014 will see the launch of the Ford F-150. Fast-forward two years and another famous rugged vehicle will begin hitting the streets with an aluminum body. It’s time to welcome the Jeep Wrangler to the aluminum family. From AutoNews:

The next-generation Jeep Wrangler will feature an aluminum body to save weight, and will remain a body-on-frame vehicle, sources say.

Because Chrysler won’t make the switch to unibody construction, Wrangler assembly will probably stay in Toledo. And that means the company will likely produce more Wranglers for U.S. dealers and for export.

The Wrangler tale started in early October in Paris when Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, was asked about two of his previous promises — never to build Wranglers outside Toledo and no more brick-and-mortar factories in North America.

In his response, Marchionne chose his words carefully. He said that the next Wrangler needed to lose weight and that doing so with aluminum might mean the Wrangler had to move elsewhere because of excessive costs to re-equip the Toledo plant for aluminum assembly.

He pointed out that Chrysler had excess capacity in at least two of its existing plants. But the two plants he named currently build only unibody vehicles, which can’t be built on the same line as body-on-frame vehicles.

As Jeeps are built and configured differently than trucks, we’ll surely be getting more details in the next year about how aluminum is incorporated into both the design and manufacturing of the vehicle. Stay tuned.

2015-06-18T15:33:03+00:00 October 28th, 2014|

Chinese Automakers Follow Americans To Aluminum

We’ve seen how the American car market has pushed toward aluminum with Ford and Tesla leading the way. European car makers have also made notable progress in this realm. Now, a market we don’t usually talk about has made some noise on this matter. Enter China and their commitment to aluminum-based electric vehicles as a means to address both transportation and environmental concerns. From Bloomberg:

 

China’s drive to build electric cars is likely to set up a greater-than-forecast surge in demand for aluminum, according to Novelis Inc., the world’s biggest supplier to automakers of sheets made of the light metal.

 

China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, is mandating that at least 30 percent of new government vehicles be powered by alternative energy by 2016 in the government’s latest salvo to combat pollution and reduce energy dependence.

 

The use of aluminum in auto bodies by China, Japan and South Korea, Asia’s major carmaking countries, is around 50,000 metric tons and expected to grow at about 30 percent a year for at least the next decade, Shashi Maudgal, president of Novelis Asia, said in an interview in Changzhou.

 

We’ve seen aluminum become more than a trend with US automakers, but it looks like the rest of the world is following.

2017-01-26T23:37:28+00:00 October 24th, 2014|

(Really Expensive) Aluminum Case Protects iPhone 6

You’ve bought a shiny new iPhone 6 but with horror stories of bent phones, you’re afraid to put it in your pocket. Never fear; for $2,000, Gresso has an aluminum case that’s built to withstand the rigors of life in a back pocket. From GSM Arena:

Bendgate is the latest

[something]gate to plague the iPhone and Gresso has a case to cure that problem. The case is for the iPhone 6 rather than the 6 Plus, which is actually the one with bending issues.

Still, Gresso is known for its luxury phones and a lot of machining went into the making of the Gresso Aluminum Bumper for the iPhone 6.

It was machined out of aircraft-grade anodized aluminum and features a patented hinge mechanism to clasp both the front and back of the device.

The case increases the force needed to bend the iPhone 6 from 70lbs to 300lbs.

The most important part of the article? “The bumpers are available in grade 5 titanium and 18K yellow or white gold. Prices start from a wallet-clenching $2,000.” Better start saving those pennies. Of course, by the time you can afford a $2,000 case, the iPhone 7 might be out!

Click on through to the original post for a video of this test in action.

2017-01-26T23:37:28+00:00 October 16th, 2014|

News Roundup: Ford’s Aluminum Gamble Pays Off

All sorts of Ford F-150 news today as we creep toward the official street date. Here’s a roundup of some of the latest aluminum-related news:

From Gas 2: “2015 Ford F-150 Curb Weights Revealed”

…the lightest 2015 F-150 you can buy is two-wheel drive regular cab model with the naturally-aspirated 3.5 liter V6, which comes in at a svelte 4,050-lbs. That, my friends, is actually lighter than the 556 horsepower Camaro ZL1, which comes in at 4,160-lbs (about 300-lbs more than a stock Camaro SS), and I’ve got to hand it to Ford, that’s a pretty impressive feat. Even with the 5.0 liter V8, the regular cab 2015 F-150 comes in at just over 4,220-lbs, and the smaller all-new 2.7 liter EcoBoost V6 equipped models weigh in at 4,168-lbs.

From the Toronto Star: “If driving is believing, 2015 Ford F-150 is the best one yet”

Whether it’s a gamble or a game-changer is still up in the air, but Ford has announced that the next-generation Super Duty will also have an aluminum body. And you better believe the other truck companies will crunch those fuel and capacity numbers when they’re finally announced. But driving is believing, and after my time behind the wheel, I think that for performance and handling, this new F-150 is the best one yet.

From the New York Daily News: “Test Drive: 2015 Ford F-150 aims to redefine the pickup truck segment”

But the new Ford’s aluminum construction and turbocharged V-6s make it the most technologically advanced full-size pickup, and the weight savings pay off in increased capability and, most likely, improved fuel economy. Considering those strengths, this advanced new Ford pickup should have no problem maintaining its sales lead. It looks like Ford’s gamble was a good one.

 

The official specs are impressive and the early reviews are backing it up. Looks like Ford’s investment in aluminum is paying off — and the rest of the industry will soon

2015-06-18T15:33:04+00:00 October 10th, 2014|

Six New Facts About The Aluminum F-150

We’ve been talking about Ford’s aluminum-based F-150 in broad strokes for quite some time now. As we inch closer and closer to the public street date, news outlets are getting more facts and figures about the bestselling truck line in America. Let’s see what USA Today found out in a recent report:

  • Sign-makers are working up removable, sticky-film decals because magnetic signs won’t stick to aluminum. You’ll still be able to proclaim, “My kid’s an honor student,” or, “Best Gutter Cleaning in Three Counties” using the new slap-on appliques that independent retailers expect to be selling soon.
  • Aluminum body didn’t cut 770 pounds of weight. About 500 pounds. The rest is from lighter steel frame, heavy use of high-strength, lightweight steel throughout the truck. The frame is 78% high-strength steel, up from 22% in the 2014 F-150.
  • The 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 Ford’s promoting as a good blend of power, mileage will be a $495 option when the truck’s launched late this year. discounted from the $795 sticker price to get dealers to order the engine and buyers to consider it. Power ratings: 325 horsepower, 375 pounds-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm. It will be able to tow 8,500 pounds. No official mpg ratings on it or the other powertrains until November. The 2.7 engine also will be offered as the high-performance choice in the new version of the Ford Escape Sport.

USA Today has three more F-150 facts in the original article, so click through to it and find out more about how aluminum has changed America’s bestselling truck.

2015-06-18T15:33:04+00:00 October 2nd, 2014|

Toyota’s Camry To Go With Aluminum

The country’s bestselling car is about to get an aluminum makeover. And you can bet that the rest of the auto industry is watching.

The Toyota Camry is the bestselling car in America for 12 years running. With 300,000 models sold in the 2014 calendar year, any design change is a big deal — but it’s an even bigger deal when it sees part of the body change to aluminum. From Automotive News:

Toyota Motor Corp. is set to become the next global automaker to begin making the expensive shift from steel to aluminum for a high-volume vehicle.

The U.S.-built Camry, the country’s best-selling car, is slated to get an aluminum hood in 2018, according to a source familiar with the plans.

Toyota’s first foray into aluminum closures in North America will come next year when the 2016 Lexus RX 350 crossover, which is made in Cambridge, Ontario, gets an aluminum hood and liftgate, the source said.

The aluminum sheet for the Camry hood likely will come from a joint venture between Toyota Tsusho Corp., a trading company affiliated with Toyota Motor Corp., and Kobe Steel to produce more aluminum sheet metal in the U.S. Toyota will be among the venture’s first customers, several sources confirmed. Production is expected to begin in 2017 and ramp up to full output at the beginning of 2018.

What does this mean for the aluminum industry? It’s no longer a grand experiment put on by Ford and Tesla. Or as Monte Kaehr (chief engineer for the 2015 Camry) puts it, “It’s no secret that the entire industry is aggressively pursuing aluminum.”

2015-06-18T15:33:04+00:00 September 25th, 2014|

Kitchen Hacks With Aluminum Foil

While the aluminum industry is focusing on its big fall launch with the F-150 — something that has produced some recent posturing from the steel industry — the Daily Meal brought things a little closer to home. Aluminum is great for car bodies and smartphone frames, but sometimes it can be used to help out with a few cooking ideas when you’re out of the proper equipment. From the Daily Meal’s 5 things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Aluminum Foil:

Make a tart. No need to buy a special tart ring if you have aluminum foil; just fold a long sheet of foil into a thin strip before looping it into a circle. Secure the circle by pinching the foil. Then, line the aluminum foil ring with your pie crust and bake as usual.

Make a complete dinner on the grill. Don’t dirty pots and pans when you can toss all the ingredients you need for a meal into a foil packet and then onto the grill. Try fish, potatoes, and fresh vegetables.

Make a funnel. From filling a cupcake tin to making pancakes, a funnel is one of those kitchen tools I always seem to need but never have on hand. In a pinch I make one using aluminum foil.

Prevent pie crust from burning. If you’re baking a pie and it looks like the edges of the crust are browning to fast, cover them in long, thin strips of foil; this will allow the center of the pie to continue cooking without further browning the outer edge of the pie.

Click on through to the full article for photos and the fifth aluminum foil hack.

2017-01-26T23:37:28+00:00 September 18th, 2014|

Ford Tours F-150 To Show Off Aluminum-Built Toughness

Ford knows that there are skeptics out there regarding the aluminum-built F-150 despite good numbers and strong buzz. To help get dealers ready for the big launch, the company is bringing the F-150 around the country to prepare dealers for questions and concerns from a curious public. From Fox Business:

Ford Motor Co. (F) is putting its new aluminum-bodied F-150 to the test.

FOX Business got an exclusive look at a demonstration event featuring the 2015 F-150, which is expected to go on sale later this year. Ford is visiting 26 cities to introduce the pickup truck to sales personnel.

The aluminum truck has been the talk of the auto industry since it was introduced at the Detroit auto show in January. Few production cars are made almost entirely of the lighter metal. The F-150 will be the first truck to use an aluminum body.

By switching from steel, Ford cut 700 pounds from the nation’s best-selling pickup. While the company has yet to release fuel economy estimates, analysts widely expect the 2015 F-150 to get better gas mileage than previous versions.

At the demonstration in Romeo, Mich., Ford pitted its F-150 against the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra from General Motors (GM), plus the Ram 1500 from Chrysler Group.

“We want our sales consultants to have confidence that this new truck is just as capable,” Eric Peterson, Ford’s F-150 marketing manager, told FBN’s Jeff Flock. “It’s got great performance and great capability just like the current truck. That’s what they get to experience firsthand.”

The F-150 is set for public launch later this year. Expect to see official numbers regarding MPG shortly before the launch.

2017-01-26T23:37:29+00:00 September 12th, 2014|